The Season That Was Vs. Boston

The Miami HEAT and Boston Celtics split the season series, 2-2, after their seven-game showdown in the Eastern Conference Finals last year. None of the four games featured both teams at full strength, with Jimmy Butler missing two and Boston never having both Al Horford and Robert Williams III available in the same contest. This is the third time in the past four seasons these teams have met in the Conference Finals, and fourth time overall. Game 1 is Wednesday at 8:30 pm in Boston.

Game 1, October 21: HEAT Drop Conference Finals Rematch As Offense Comes Alive

In the end, Boston won 111-104. But, and you might not believe me here, it was as encouraging an early-season loss might be at least in the wake of Wednesday’s loss to Chicago. That’s because in addition to the HEAT playing typically hard – something that doesn’t often get enough credit for delivering regular season wins – they got a bounce-back performance from Kyle Lowry (17 points on 13 shots), a wonderful second half from Gabe Vincent (14 points) as he drilled jumper after jumper, a great game from Bam Adebayo despite foul trouble and plenty of what you expect from Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro (shouldering a huge offensive burden with 21 shots). No, Miami didn’t solve Boston’s switching scheme any more than they did last season, but it was a complete team effort that, if you watch it in a couple days without the emotions of live action, would lead your mind toward a future of the same solid two-way results this group’s roster portends. The HEAT are 0-2, but it was in the second loss where their identity came to the fore. Box Score

Game 2, November 30: Boston’s Best Offense Better Than Miami’s As HEAT Drop First Of Two Against The Celtics

Not much more you can ask from the HEAT from an offensive perspective as they hovered around 50 percent from three most of the evening, making 18-of-39, and put up and Offensive Rating of 124.7. Every time Boston would go up seven or eight the HEAT would respond with an anything you can do I can do better three or two of their own. The problem was Boston kept going up seven or eight – they were just as incredible from three, making 22-of-45 –and eventually those counter-punch threes stopped falling for the HEAT. Bam Adebayo did all he could to keep the offense chugging along, but at that point late in the fourth Miami was, at best, trading twos for Boston’s threes, and the clock wasn’t waiting for them to put another run together. Miami fell, 134-121, by the time the final buzzer hit, but that may as well have been the only time since the first quarter that they found themselves down double digits. 

Credit Tatum for an incredible night, as there really wasn’t much he didn’t do with 49 points on 25 shots. Behind him, Boston matched the HEAT’s shooting every step of the way as they scored 135 points per 100. Even as the HEAT’s defense has been up and down all season, the Celtics are scoring as efficiently as any team in league history right now and probably had the better, more consistent perimeter looks for most of the night. Box Score

Game 3, December 2: Jimmy Butler Returns With Clutch Shots As HEAT Outlast Celtics In Overtime

Another clutch game, because of course, with a ton of big plays from Kyle Lowry (20 points) and Adebayo (28 points) down the stretch, with timely passes from Herro, good defense from Haywood Highsmith getting the chance to finish the game and Butler (25 points on 21 shots) hitting the shots of the game – first he put Miami up three with 36 seconds left, then he did it again with a looping, fading jumper with five second to play.

That’s where we thought this story was going to end. Then Jaylen Brown (37 points) banked in a ridiculous three to force overtime. Good thing Butler was back to hit another incredibly tough jumper in the final minute, carrying over his clutch performance from Game 6 last season, this time to put the HEAT up four. It might not have been pretty, but nobody cares when you leave that building with a win. Box Score

Game 4, January 24: Bam Adebayo Hits Go-Ahead Jumper To Take Down Boston

For a brief moment it looked like Boston might pull away after that, but as their (eventual 17) turnovers mounted – picking up some offensive fouls on Jayson Tatum after his fast start helped quite a bit – the HEAT managed to keep the damage mostly within single digits even while their own shots wouldn’t stay down. Eventually a pair of Victor Oladipo threes broke the cold stretch and the HEAT got it within five. But with Tatum resting at the beginning of the fourth Boston managed to push it back to 10.

Good thing for Haywood Highsmith (15 points on seven shots), hitting a pair of threes and pressuring Tatum out past the arc. And good thing for Bam Adebayo, the only player on the floor for the HEAT able to generate consistent looks, consistently pushing in transition to scramble Boston’s desired half-court matchups. Three minutes after that double-digit deficit, things were tied. Soon after, Miami by five. Suddenly it was Boston that couldn’t hit anything as the HEAT ran off a 15-0 run. Still a tie game in the final minutes, when Adebayo caught the ball at the free-throw line with Payton Pritchard switches onto him and calmly drained the go-ahead jumper for an eventual 98-95 victory. The Celtics scored just 13 in the final period. Box Score